Total Consolitation

The phone can be everything.

It can be your desktop:  Video out, keyboard, mouse.  Ideally, the device would give you a different interface when used with a display, one that is more like a conventional desktop and is better suited for use with a keyboard and mouse (as opposed to thumbs).  You can store your work in the cloud with some online service like Dropbox or Google Drive, or you could keep it on the phone itself.  Local storage might be better for larger files that would take a lot of bandwidth to move back and forth between the cloud and the handset.

It can be your home theater computer (HTPC):  There are already plenty of services that can stream content to mobile devices.  Additionally, MHL can work with TV remotes through the television.  Imagine: you connect your phone to your giant television, and you use your remote to interact with it.  This allows you to navigate Hulu, Netflix, or whatever app from the comfort of your chair; you don’t have to change the channel.  It feels just as natural as it did before: living room, big comfy chair, giant television, feet propped up on the coffee table.  The only difference is that entertainment is in a package you carry with you wherever you go; your content stays with you.

It can be your game console:  Gaming on cell phones is massive.  I don’t know what the exact percentage is, but i’m sure game purchases (and in game microtransactions for that matter) account for a sizable portion of all the purchases in the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.  Previously we talked about pairing a keyboard and a mouse with a cell phone.  Why not a game controller?  The PS3 uses Bluetooth to communicate between controller and console, and many phones (most) have Bluetooth already.  Additionally, the video horsepower of phones is continuing to advance.  Most cell phones/tablets are already capable of running games with sophisticated 3D graphics.. No, its not a 360 in your pocket right now, but there’s no reason why it can’t be.  The other day I saw a YouTube video of a Dreamcast emulator running on a Samsung Galaxy S2, and that’s a two year old phone.  Point is, technology will continue to march on, and the processing power of today’s cutting edge game consoles will ultimately be in a package we can fit in our pocket.  Even with today’s technology, gaming on those handheld devices are huge.  The difference would be to see these games on a 60″ television instead of a 4″ touch screen.  Maybe it looks great on a tiny screen in the palm of your hand, but not so great in your home theater.  Many touch screens are 1920×1080 anyway, so they wouldn’t even have to do any scaling.  If the gameplay is there, though, the graphics fade away.  The point is, the graphics capabilities of modern cell phones are more than sufficient to deliver stimulating and engrossing gaming experiences, and they already are..  I’m just proposing a change of venue and more tactile controls.

The problem:  You still have to plug the thing in.

To make this a super convenient reality, a wireless video standard needs widespread adoption.  With wireless video you can sit on your couch with your phone charging next to you, while it streams video (and audio) content across the room to your television.  Make it as transparent as WiFi.  When you come home, you might need to turn on WiFi, but you probably don’t need to tell it to join your home network: it just does it automatically.  Let’s apply that to televisions and monitors.  You come home, your televisions and displays are on sleep, waiting for a video source to come on the network.  Perhaps you have a default screen that you use, so when you come in range, it connects automatically, and you don’t have to do anything.  In other words, when the handset is in range, the TV wakes up and is ready to go.  Most people have multiple TV’s and displays in their home, so maybe the device would have a default display, but it would also prompt you to connect to one of the other screens on the network.  Here’s an idea: Multiple screens.  A desktop interface streamed to a desktop display, and a home theater interface streamed to a TV in the living room, both served up simultaneously from one handset.  The bandwidth requirements of such a setup would be immense, but not impossible.

The Future of the Desktop

You get home from school.  Customarily, it would be time to relax, but you’ve got to finish up paper and turn it in online before 8pm, so you go to your desk.

You take your phone out of your pocket, plug it in to charge, set it down on your desk, and flop down in your chair.

In front of you is your monitor and your favorite Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.  The monitor wakes up, and you’re at your desktop.  You turn your keyboard and mouse on, glancing up at the Bluetooth status icon at the top of the screen…  aaaand its on, your keyboard and mouse are paired with your phone, you’re ready to go.

You navigate to your word processor, open up your assignment, and get to work.

After you’re reasonably certain that your masterpiece cannot be improved upon, you open up your browser, go to your class’s site, and upload your assignment.  Right when the upload confirmation page announces that your document has been submitted, the phone rings.  Girlfriend wants to hang out, so it’s time to go.  You get up, unplug your phone, put it in your pocket, turn off your keyboard and mouse, and walk out the door.

You get to the girlfriends house.

She wants to catch up with her favorite TV show, but it’s not on right now.  However, it is on Netflix and Netflix is on your phone.  No problemo.

You go over to her TV, plug your phone in, navigate to Netflix, pull up Arrested Development, hit play, and its goin.  She’s peachy keen because Game of Thrones is coming in full force through the massive television in her living room, and you feel like a boss for being a master of technology, like a lion tamer commanding the great cat to do his bidding with the crack of a whip.. with a beaming smile on your face, no less.

Purpose for travnewmatic.com

To explore this vision of the future I see.

I suppose it’s two ideas.

1) Tablet + Keyboard = laptop.  There are tons of examples like this out in the wild already.  Microsoft even makes a version.  Really, really dumb ad campaign, but what i’m doing right now is exactly that.  I have my Nexus 7 in front of me, and positioned between myself and the Nexus 7 is my Motorola Xoom Bluetooth keyboard.  If I was surfing or gaming, I wouldn’t have the keyboard out because I wouldn’t need it.  But, because I’m writing a lengthy blog post, I prefer to use a physical keyboard rather than the virtual one on screen.  This model gives me a choice.

2) Cell phone does everything.  Same concept as before, except you’re not using the screen of the device as the primary display.  The cell phone is instead the tower, the HTPC/set top box, the game console.

One of the aspects that is shared between these to models is the use of external input devices.  Namely keyboard and mouse, but it could also be a game controller.

So that’s kind of what I’d like the focus of this site to be.  Reviewing apps and products as they relate to using phones and tablets in different ways, and answering questions like: How keyboard friendly is this app?  Are there any handy keyboard shortcuts?  Does the app work in landscape mode/portrait mode/have rotation?  Where is the content stored on my device?  Is it human readable?

Every year PC sales are down.  People aren’t buying desktop computers like they used to.  It’s either because they don’t need that functionality anymore, or they’re using some other solution to that particular problem.  If they are using some other solution, what is that solution, and how can it be improved upon.

More Dumb Terminals

I could be wrong when it comes to the HTPC proposal.  More and more TV’s are smart.  They have some operating system in them already.  Just augment that.  Make it a full up version of Android.  Maybe that’s what Google TV already is.  So long as you can access the content you need to access, you’re covered.

Mobile/Desktop Experience

This is something that Ubuntu is already working on, and something you can partially get away with in Android.

Right now, Ubuntu is working on a mobile version of their operating system, Ubuntu Touch.  While it can be installed on a variety of devices right now, much of the functionality is missing.  Lots of dummy content.  Think of a phone that’s on display in a retail outlet.  You can get Ubuntu Touch today, but its not ready to be your daily mobile OS…  yet.

Ubuntu isn’t just making an OS for mobile, they’re doing something more.

Ubuntu Touch (from my understanding) IS the full version of Ubuntu, just with a more touch-friendly interface.  Applications that you run on your phone are the same versions that you would run on the desktop, again, with a more touch friendly interface.

The reason for this is because Ubuntu Touch wants to be your desktop.  When you plug a display into your Ubuntu Touch-running phone, you’re at the Ubuntu Desktop.  Attach a keyboard and mouse (or pair wirelessly via Bluetooth) and you have a full desktop experience served up by your phone.

To my knowledge, Ubuntu is the only project out there like this.  The key to this whole setup is video out.  And currently, many handsets do have video out (MHL).

So video out is an output but your would-be desktop needs inputs:  Keyboard and mouse.

Recently, I got a Motorola Xoom Bluetooth keyboard.  It’s compact, made for Android, and fairly cheap ($30 w/ shipping on eBay).  I especially like it because the Android-specific shortcut keys work.  I can press home and it takes me back to the home screen, the gmail button opens gmail, etc.  Its pretty neat.

What i’m discovering though, is that it is very possible to navigate around the UI with just a keyboard.  Additionally, some apps are nicer about this than others.  Of course, a Bluetooth mouse would make this issue disappear.  But as it stand’s right now, I don’t, and for my purposes I’m not sure I need it.  Using a mouse requires extra desktop real estate, plus I’m an HID snob and don’t like how Bluetooth mice are weighted (wired mice are lighter).  Also, it’s one more thing to carry.

Right now, I’m typing this on my Nexus 7 (currently offline because this room is walled with lead…  or it might as well be) with my Bluetooth keyboard in the Blogger app.  I’m sitting comfortably away from the screen and the text is readable to me, although it may be harder to read for someone with less than perfect vision.  I don’t think its significantly smaller than text on a laptop or a desktop screen.

How is this different than a laptop?

It is more limited, for sure, because I can’t go and get any program or application off the internet and install it, it needs to be made for Android.  But, so long as it provides the same needed functionality, then what difference does it make?  I can write papers, listen to music, write emails, surf the web, chat, get on Facebook, and watch movies.  I’m still feeling it out, but so far, this is a pretty neat solution.

To-Do:

Figure out how to open, edit, save files on the phone.  And not just “files” that reside inside of apps (documents in Google Drive, posts in Blogger), files that I can see when I plug my phone into my computer, files that I can send as attachments.  You know, file files.  Living in the cloud is fine, but I would like have the ability to be really capable.

Printing is another thing.  I know that it’s possible.  Waaaaay back when, when my good buddy Patrick had his G1, he was able to print to an HP LaserJet that was connected to the network.  Printing could be an interesting problem because of drivers.  However, if the printer is shared over the network, depending on how its advertised, it might be driver agnostic.  I’ll need to look into the printing problem further, because that is a very fundamental function of a desktop computer.